"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|Risen Christ by Joseph Fisher|
Sunday, April 21, will be the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The theme for the Day is "Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith." In his message for the Day, dated October 6, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI noted this event "happily occurs during the Year of Faith, the year marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. While the Council was in session, the Servant of God, Paul VI, instituted this day of worldwide prayer to God the Father, asking Him to continue to send workers for His Church (cf. Mt 9:38). 'The problem of having a sufficient number of priests,' as the Pope stated at the time, 'has an immediate impact on all of the faithful: not simply because they depend on it for the religious future of Christian society, but also because this problem is the precise and inescapable indicator of the vitality of faith and love of individual parish and diocesan communities, and the evidence of the moral health of Christian families. Wherever numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are to be found, that is where people are living the Gospel with generosity' (Paul VI, Radio Message, April 11, 1964).
"During the intervening decades, the various Christian communities all over the world have gathered each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, united in prayer, to ask from God the gift of holy vocations and to propose once again, for the reflection of all, the urgent need to respond to the divine call. Indeed, this significant annual event has fostered a strong commitment to placing the importance of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life ever more at the center of the spirituality, prayer, and pastoral action of the faithful.
"Hope is the expectation of something positive in the future, yet at the same time it must sustain our present existence, which is often marked by dissatisfaction and failures. On what is our hope founded? Looking at the history of the people of Israel, recounted in the Old Testament, we see one element that constantly emerges, especially in times of particular difficulty like the time of the Exile, an element found especially in the writings of the prophets, namely remembrance of God's promises to the Patriarchs: a remembrance that invites us to imitate the exemplary attitude of Abraham, who, as Saint Paul reminds us, 'believed, hoping against hope, that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "Thus shall your descendants be" ' (Rom 4:18). One consoling and enlightening truth which emerges from the whole of salvation history, then, is God's faithfulness to the covenant that He entered into, renewing it whenever man infringed it through infidelity and sin, from the time of the flood (cf. Gen 8:21-22) to that of the Exodus and the journey through the desert (cf. Dt 9:7). That same faithfulness led Him to seal the new and eternal covenant with man, through the blood of His Son, Who died and rose again for our salvation.
"At every moment, especially the most difficult ones, the Lord's faithfulness is always the authentic driving force of salvation history, which arouses the hearts of men and women and confirms them in the hope of one day reaching the 'promised land.' This is where we find the sure foundation of every hope: God never abandons us and He remains true to His word. For that reason, in every situation, whether positive or negative, we can nourish a firm hope and pray with the psalmist: 'Only in God can my soul find rest; my hope comes from Him' (Ps 62:6). To have hope, therefore, is the equivalent of trusting in God Who is faithful, Who keeps the promises of the covenant. Faith and hope, then, are closely related. 'Hope' in fact is a key word in biblical faith, to the extent that in certain passages the words 'faith' and 'hope' seem to be interchangeable. In this way, the Letter to the Hebrews makes a direct connection between the 'unwavering profession of hope' (10:23) and the 'fullness of faith' (10:22). Similarly, when the First Letter of Saint Peter exhorts the Christians to be always ready to give an account of the 'logos' – the meaning and rationale – of their hope (cf. 3:15), 'hope' is the equivalent of 'faith' (Spe Salvi, 2).
". . . What exactly is God's faithfulness, to which we adhere with unwavering hope? It is His love! He, the Father, pours His love into our innermost self through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5). And this love, fully manifested in Jesus Christ, engages with our existence and demands a response in terms of what each individual wants to do with his or her life, and what he or she is prepared to offer in order to live it to the full. The love of God sometimes follows paths one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found. Hope is nourished, then, by this certainty: 'We ourselves have known and believed in the love that God has for us' (1 Jn 4:16). This deep, demanding love, which penetrates well below the surface, gives us courage; it gives us hope in our life's journey and in our future; it makes us trust in ourselves, in history, and in other people. I want to speak particularly to the young and I say to you once again: 'What would your life be without this love? God takes care of men and women from creation to the end of time, when He will bring His plan of salvation to completion. In the Risen Lord we have the certainty of our hope!' (Address to Young People of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro, June 19, 2011).
"Just as He did during His earthly existence, so today the risen Jesus walks along the streets of our life and sees us immersed in our activities, with all our desires and our needs. In the midst of our everyday circumstances He continues to speak to us; He calls us to live our life with Him, for only He is capable of satisfying our thirst for hope. He lives now among the community of disciples that is the Church, and still today calls people to follow Him. The call can come at any moment. Today too, Jesus continues to say, 'Come, follow me' (Mk 10:21). Accepting His invitation means no longer choosing our own path. Following Him means immersing our own will in the will of Jesus, truly giving Him priority, giving Him pride of place in every area of our lives: in the family, at work, in our personal interests, in ourselves. It means handing over our very lives to Him, living in profound intimacy with Him, entering through Him into communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and consequently with our brothers and sisters. This communion of life with Jesus is the privileged 'setting' in which we can experience hope and in which life will be full and free.
"Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with Him, so as to enter into His will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to His voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God's call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God, nourished by recourse to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by a fervent life of prayer. This latter 'must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.' (Spe Salvi, 34).
"Deep and constant prayer brings about growth in the faith of the Christian community, in the unceasingly renewed certainty that God never abandons His people and that He sustains them by raising up particular vocations – to the priesthood and the consecrated life – so that they can be signs of hope for the world. Indeed, priests and religious are called to give themselves unconditionally to the People of God, in a service of love for the Gospel and the Church, serving that firm hope which can only come from an openness to the divine. By means of the witness of their faith and apostolic zeal, therefore, they can transmit, especially to the younger generations, a strong desire to respond generously and promptly to Christ Who calls them to follow Him more closely. Whenever a disciple of Jesus accepts the divine call to dedicate himself to the priestly ministry or to the consecrated life, we witness one of the most mature fruits of the Christian community, which helps us to look with particular trust and hope to the future of the Church and to her commitment to evangelization. This constantly requires new workers to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So let there be committed priests, who know how to accompany young people as 'companions on the journey,' helping them, on life's often tortuous and difficult path, to recognize Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), telling them, with Gospel courage, how beautiful it is to serve God, the Christian community, one's brothers and sisters. Let there be priests who manifest the fruitfulness of an enthusiastic commitment, which gives a sense of completeness to their lives, because it is founded on faith in Him Who loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19).
"Equally, I hope that young people, who are presented with so many superficial and ephemeral options, will be able to cultivate a desire for what is truly worthy, for lofty objectives, radical choices, service to others in imitation of Jesus. Dear young people, do not be afraid to follow Him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment! In that way you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of a joy that the world cannot give, you will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love, you will learn to 'give an account of the hope that is within you' (1 Pt 3:15)!"
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States, addressed a high-level segment of the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 26. His speech follows:
"The need to prevent in the future the immense tragedies of the Second World War, when the dignity of the human person was profoundly violated and entire populations destroyed, created among the international community a convergence of understanding on the basic values that led to the establishment, in 1946, of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights - which was replaced, in 2006, by this Human Rights Council - and culminated, two years later, in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and related Conventions.
". . . Twenty years ago, the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights proclaimed the indivisibility and universality of all human rights. The effort, however, to give substance to the stated equal importance and interdependence of civil and political rights and of economic, social, and cultural rights, still meets with serious obstacles in the path towards its achievement. The resulting gap shows the high costs that large segments of the world population have to pay as shown by their poor health and lack of access to necessary medicines, the lack of adequate education, especially for young girls, the lack of drinking water, of sufficient food, the ongoing political exclusion of millions of people, the lack of security in armed conflicts, the lack of assistance for migrants and refugees, and the lack of freedom of expression and religious liberty. Much remains to be done to make the indivisibility of human rights a reality.
"Moreover, recent attempts to re-interpret the meaning of some critical terms in basic documents, like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and related Conventions, by the introduction of ambiguous expressions and ideological positions appear to ignore the solid foundations of human rights, to weaken the successes already achieved, and to undermine the universality of human rights.
"While for too many people fundamental human rights are still a practically unreachable aspiration, the mechanisms that the concert of nations has for the protection and promotion of these rights suffer from some serious contradictions, duplication of structures, and limited capacity to implement effectively their mandate, because sufficient resources are not provided, clashes of convictions are increasing among groups, and private interests are pursued instead of the common good.
". . . These challenges surely urge the international community to recall the important role the Human Rights Council is due to play in three main areas:
". . . Through its mechanisms and procedures, especially the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Council is a key driving force for human development, and a positive service to member States that can progressively improve the implementation of all human rights for the benefit of their fellow citizens and other persons found in their territory.
"However, the way so-called 'new rights' are discussed and recognized by the Human Rights Council puts at risk the universality and indivisibility of human rights and, consequently, the credibility of the Council as a promoter and defender of the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. A fundamental question ought always to be present in our minds: are human rights universal because a majority of countries recognizes them, or are they universal because of an ethical claim which is prior to their recognition by states and which comes from the dignity of every person? The Holy See firmly believes that human rights should be judged by their reference to the founding principles and objectives enshrined in the basic documents where the nature and innate dignity of the human person are key elements. In his 2009 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI rightly observed: 'A link has often been noted between claims to a "right to excess," and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction, and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centers. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate.'1
"Thus the protection of the dignity of every human person, on one hand, and the full implementation and respect of the Resolutions of this Council, on the other hand, urge all States to work together, in a spirit of dialogue and openness, to adopt Resolutions in a consensual way. In fact, the number of resolutions is less important than their effectiveness, the imposition of new rights and principles should be replaced by respect for and strengthening of those already agreed upon. In this way, the common good will be sought, cooperation among nations will be reinforced, and the principle of subsidiarity will be fully respected.
"In this context, the Holy See will continue to contribute to this Council's discussions, so as to offer an essentially ethical reflection upon its decision-making, and so as to help safeguard the dignity of the human person.
". . . Allow me to address some specific concerns that appear particularly urgent today, and that would give greater credibility and status to the Council.
"One of the challenges the international community has had to face in recent years is the right to freedom of religion. International law is quite substantial in this regard. So why does it remain one of the most frequently and widely denied and restricted rights in the world? Authoritative studies have recently shown that violations of freedom of religion are not abating, but have in fact increased over the last decade. More than 70% of the world's population lives in places where religious freedom is not fully guaranteed, with high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices, and religious minorities pay the highest price. It seems then that, despite all the legal instruments available, a minimal protection of freedom of religion has not yet been achieved in many countries.2
"Reasons for this include poor state legislation, lack of political will, cultural prejudice, hatred, and intolerance. These factors often accompany the violation of freedom of religion. However, key to upholding freedom of religion is its recognition as grounded in the transcendent dimension of human dignity. The freedom safeguarded in the freedom of religion cannot be reduced simply to its political or even civil dimension. It is a freedom that signals a limit upon the state, and a protection of the conscience of the individual from the power of the state. That is why when a state safeguards it properly, freedom of religion becomes one of the sources of the state's legitimacy, and a primary indicator of democracy.
"A full recognition of religious freedom, therefore, requires a state, which recognizes the transcendent dimension of human dignity. The issue at stake, then, is the recognition of the positive dimension of religions in the public square as a force for peace and freedom. This is accompanied by a correlative duty on the part of religions to participate in public debate, an exercise that is part and parcel of democratic life.
"Among the many concerns linked to freedom of religion, the fate of religious minorities stand in particular relief, including Christian communities suffering violence and cruelty. As the last Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion shows, more can and should be done to protect the freedom of religion of religious minorities.
". . . Confronted by conflicts in various regions of the globe and by the constant risk of fresh outbreaks of violence, the international community is struggling to find new ways to ensure peaceful coexistence, as the Charter of the United Nations requires and as the current debate on the right to peace argues in a convincing way.
"No lasting peace can be achieved without a true recognition of the dignity of every human person. Peace is not only reached when armed conflict ends, however important a step this might be; peace is earned by a society in the long term when the rule of law translates into action the standards of human rights as recognized by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and by the international Conventions on human rights, a task that the Holy See constantly advocates in the most diverse circumstances.
"Key to this search for international peace in a globalized world is, once again, the preservation and promotion of the universality and indivisibility of human rights. In today's context of an ever-growing inter-connection between societies, adhering to the standard of human rights becomes both increasingly more important and a condition for social harmony and peace. This requires defending the life of the human person, from conception until natural death; protecting the rights of the child, especially the right to have a family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman, and upon whom falls the primary responsibility of education of children; defending the rights of disabled people, of migrants, and of refugees; protecting freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and so on; combating discrimination based on sex, religion, race, and color; and combating violence against women.
"In the context of the discussion on human rights and how they should be given concrete and practical application, special attention must be paid to the right to life, to its promotion, and to the deepening of our understanding of it. No peace can come without the true recognition of the value of human life. Respect for the value of life is by no means a limitation or contradiction of expressions of freedom. On the contrary, freedom of choice flourishes where the deeper and prior value of human life is acknowledged and safeguarded. Indeed, 'openness to life is at the center of true development ... By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples ... can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.'3
". . . The Catholic Church's acknowledgement of the legitimacy of human rights is not only a moral or political duty. It has deep roots in its convictions and beliefs. This is due to the way the Church views the human person and his or her dignity. Fifty years ago Blessed Pope John XXIII wrote: 'Any well-regulated and productive association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual human being is truly a person. His is a nature that is endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. When, furthermore, we consider a human being's personal dignity from the standpoint of divine revelation, inevitably our estimate of it is incomparably increased. Men and women have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace has made them sons and friends of God, and heirs to eternal glory.'4
"Therefore, millions of individuals and thousands of Catholic communities and NGOs around the world have taken up the task of promoting respect for the dignity of the human person and his or her inherent human rights as one of their responsibilities and de facto are engaged in practical actions to support and promote awareness of the critical importance of human rights.
"In conclusion, . . . the Holy See cooperates with all people of good will who work to ensure that the Charter and the principles of the United Nations are not only proclaimed, but also recognized in their genuine formulation, meaning and application. Several decades ago, the late Pope Paul VI appealed for the world's commitment to close the gap between the ideal and the reality. He wrote: 'The vastness and the urgency of the action to be carried out call for the united contribution of all. How can we see to it that international resolutions be applied among all peoples? How can we ensure the fundamental rights of man, when they are mocked? How can we intervene, in a word, to save the human person wherever it is threatened? How can we make those in charge realize that it is a question of an essential heritage of man that no one can harm with impunity, on any pretext, without making an attempt on what is most sacred for a human being and thus ruining the very foundations of social life? All these are grave problems and we cannot make any mystery of the fact: it would be useless to proclaim rights if at the same time we did not do everything in our power to ensure the duty of respecting them, on the part of everyone, everywhere and for everyone.'5 . . .
1 Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009), 43: AAS 101 (2009).
2 The Pew Forum on Religion, Analysis, November 21, 2012.
3 Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009), 28: AAS 101 (2009).
4 Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (April 11, 1963), 9-10: AAS 55 (1963).
5 Pope Paul VI, Message addressed to the President of the Conference on the Rights of Man, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the UDHR, convened by the United Nations at Teheran from April 22 to May 13, 1968.
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"The bishops now say that they look forward to working with the administration to resolve the serious issues remaining," states Gerard Bradley, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. "But this latest proposal makes clear that the administration does not intend to meet the bishops even halfway."
In the Summer of 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, boldly announced the new federal requirement that all private hospitalization insurance provide women with coverage for FDA-approved contraception, sterilization, and "contraceptives" that have an abortifacient effect. There would in reality be no exemption for religious groups, or for private individuals who would object on the grounds of moral principles.
Although all drugs and medical services would be subject to a co-payment, the most pro-abortion president in the history of the United States declared that these special "services" must be rendered completely free of charge.
In February 2012, an "accommodation" was touted by the pro-abortion secular media as a compromise to those who opposed the immoral mandate. However, Obama simply proposed that the health insurers, rather than religious nonprofits, would pay for the mandatory co-pay-free benefits. How would insurance companies do this? They would simply charge a higher premium for healthcare insurance, which covers all other matters.
The pro-abortion secular news media again hailed Obama's "new" accommodation, issued on February 1, 2013, which "called for religious nonprofit institutions to provide health plans without the coverage, while employees would automatically be enrolled in a stand-alone policy created solely to provide the co-pay-free services. The government said there would be no additional charge for that provision," reports National Catholic Register.
Again, how will insurers pay for this new stand-alone policy? What choice do they have, but to charge more for the premium for the basic healthcare policy?
Nothing changes. Those who morally object to destroying innocent human life through the act of abortion will still be forced to pay for the killing of an unborn child.
For employers in the private sector who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life, there is absolutely no proposed change by Obama to release them from this federal mandate. They will either comply or face such extraordinary fines that they will be forced to cease to do business. For them, nothing has changed.
Few parents seem to realize that this federal mandate requires that co-pay-free contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and surgical sterilization also be rendered to adolescent girls, without parental consent. In fact, healthcare professionals must promote the use of these "preventive" services.
The obvious intent is that since there is no co-payment, a teenage girl, or a preteen girl, may obtain contraception or abortion-inducing drugs without anybody knowing about it. Since there is no co-payment, she needs no money, and the medical provider need not send a bill to her parents.
Big Brother, or Big Mother, knows what is best for your children, and how dare you think that you should even have a right to know the benevolent services they render to your child.
As Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore warned: "It is pretty clear that if one is an employee of an accommodated entity, you cannot opt out of receiving coverage for the prescribed services, and that includes your adolescent children." The mandate "reaches into the workplace and the family."
Lori continues that the HHS mandate "permits no free choice by a female employee to decline such coverage for herself or her minor children, even if it violates her moral and religious convictions. The new approach even threatens to undermine access to quality healthcare, by telling providers as well as those who offer or purchase insurance that they need to drop their participation in the healthcare system if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity. A restoration of full respect for one of our nation's founding values is urgently needed."
Lori also observes a new attitude at work, "a new, more grudging attitude in recent years toward citizens whose faith or moral principles are not in accord with the views of the current governing power."
In the March 2012 edition of My People, I penned the article, "Will the Sleeping Giant Arise?" The following questions were proposed, which are again proposed:
Will the Catholic bishops finally teach the faithful about their Christian duty to vote for those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life? Will the bishops instruct the faithful to base their vote on the positions taken by candidates on the non-negotiable issues, i.e., the intrinsically evil acts of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, so-called "same-sex marriage," cloning, and funding for embryonic stem-cell research?
In the last election cycle, there were only a few comments from bishops which instructed the faithful of this moral obligation. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, stated: "…a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy."
Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Will the bishops stop equating those issues officially defined by the Catholic Church, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as moral absolutes, i.e., intrinsically evil, and never permitted under any circumstances (abortion [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2270-2275], euthanasia [ibid., 2276-2279], and artificial contraception [ibid., 2370]) with other issues like the death penalty (specifically approved Biblically [ibid, 2266]), legitimate defense [ibid., 2263], and prudential social teaching which it proposes for reflection; it provides criteria for judgment; it gives guidelines for action [ibid., 2423].
Will the Catholic bishops enforce their own rule which prohibits sponsoring, compensating, and/or permitting pro-abortion politicians to speak, or receive honors, on Catholic property or at Catholic functions?
When Cardinal Dolan honored President Obama with an invitation to speak at the 2012 Al Smith Dinner in New York, a fundraiser for Catholic charities, it again became obvious that nothing has changed.
Will the U.S. bishops deny Holy Communion to unrepentant officeholders, whether Democrat or Republican, whether liberal or conservative, who publicly support and vote for legalized abortion, as spelled out clearly and unambiguously in Canon 915 of Church law?
With Cardinal Dolan publicly characterizing Vice President Joe Biden as a strong "Catholic," it is obvious that nothing has changed.
Will the Catholic bishops themselves, and all priests, boldly teach that all artificial contraception is intrinsically evil and that a number of so-called contraceptives, including the standard birth control pill, are in fact abortifacient, since they impede the implantation of the newly conceived child into the mother's womb?
Nothing has changed.
Will the bishops continue to approve the acceptance of employees in their high schools, colleges and universities, in their medical facilities, in their agencies, and especially in their clergy and religious orders, who publicly dissent from the Church's teachings on contraception and abortion?
With the president of Xavier University in Cincinnati proudly announcing that under the school's faculty and student health insurance policy, contraception will continue to be covered, this announcement indicates that nothing has changed.
If those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life are unsuccessful in restricting this newly claimed federal government's power to mandate that employers pay, through healthcare policies, for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs, be assured that the next tyrannical step in the war on religion will be federally mandated coverage of all abortions.
(Editor's note: The author writes from New York. He wrote this article for his daughter, Christina, and her newlywed husband, Michael. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
In the book of Genesis, God tells us He created man and woman in His divine image, blessed His creation, and commissioned us to "be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it" (Gn 1:27-28 NAB). When God established this binding agreement between man and woman, He entrusted humans with the authority to fulfill His divine purpose. God clearly intended for man and woman to become united as husband and wife in marriage. In God's eyes, the bond of marriage is an eternal covenant, a binding commitment to the sanctity of marriage where the man and woman have enjoined their hearts to become one flesh; unified in mind, body, and spirit, with their love and devotion for each other modeled on the Holy One's love for His bride, the Church.
The bond of marriage is forever, the most sacred bond of God's natural love, even more sacred than the bond which binds parents to their children: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (Gn 2:24). The Lord Jesus Christ declared no power on earth can dissolve marriage: "What God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mt 19:6). Throughout the centuries before Christ, the institution of marriage was marred by polygamy, divorce, and adultery.
Unfortunately, the society we live in today is still influenced by the degraded, pagan view of sex and marriage, and not always faithful in obedience to God's manual of life, the Holy Bible. This all dates back to the fall of Adam and Eve, when mankind lost the gift of integrity (a perfect self-control), among many other gifts God had lovingly bestowed on mankind. However, God's promise to Adam and Eve was fulfilled when Christ restored marriage to its primitive ideal (Mt 19:8). In accord with God's plan for salvation, Christ established the New Covenant among His baptized followers, and His teachings on the Sacrament of marriage reaffirm its unity, dignity, and dissolubility. The bond of marriage is indispensable, an infinite sacramental contract between a man and woman; its endearing piety often exemplified in the Scriptures.
For example, in the Old Testament God's love for His people is compared to a husband's love for his wife (Is 62:4-5). Infidelity to God by the Israelites is likened to adultery (Jer 3:1). In the New Testament, John the Baptist speaks of Jesus' coming to claim Israel, His bride (Jn 3:29), and Christ compared the kingdom of heaven to a "wedding feast" (Mt 22:2). St. Paul, the apostle, also compared the love of a wed couple to the loving union of Christ and His Church (Eph 5:25); and, in the book of Revelation, the "wife of the Lamb" is the Church (Rv 21:9).
Therefore, the union of marriage is an eternal source of His grace, a sacramental encounter with Christ Himself, a heavenly "gift" in which man and wife participate in the very union of Christ with the Church.
With the exception of recent man-made laws that have legalized "same sex marriages" in many states across the country, in God's eyes all marriages are sacred and holy unions. However, when the Christian-baptized couple exchange their marriage vows, the divine sacramental contract is administered to each other. The marriage is now a sign of the Lord's loving work of salvation, and inaugurates new life for the couple — directly from the throne of His grace. In the vows of the bride and groom, not only do they give each other themselves completely without reservation but also receive an increase in the very life of God. The Sacrament confers God's loving grace — His love, the very life of the Lord on the couple. The union of husband and wife in marriage becomes a channel of His grace. In other words, the couple is now qualified to receive God's assistance throughout the life of their marital contract for the fulfillment of responsibilities of this vocation. Marriage is a sacred genuine vocation — a mission of great importance.
Equally important, prayer, and a sincere desire to live in accord with God's Word, will enable the couple's love for each other to grow stronger, and will become a part of their love for God. The nuptial vows will evolve with time, and transform their lives into the very image and channel of Christ's love for His spouse, the Church. The essence of God's infinite love is the glue which binds their hearts together for all eternity.
Since God, in His Infinite wisdom, established the permanence of the marriage bond, it is not simply a matter of Church doctrine. Rather, in simple terms, God wants us to recognize it as the everlasting and unbreakable bond between Christ and His Church. By God's design, the special sacramental grace that Christian marriage gives flows daily and constantly through all the exchange of married life. If the couple build on the foundation of God's unfailing grace, husband and wife become fused into a new, richer, and indivisible unity with the passage of time.
In the context of our given duty to share in God's holy work of procreation, the act of copulation between the married couple receives its most profound meaning and focus. There is no comparison to this blissful ecstasy, an intimate holy love that is sanctioned by God. The husband and wife can embrace its joys as bringing them closer to God.
The beauty of love and marriage is relative, and relies on God and two "dead" people (not in the literal sense, of course). For example, Christ illustrates this point of death unto oneself (Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:24). Hence, each couple has died to themselves in their bodies and now carry the dying of Jesus so the life of Jesus may be manifested in them (2 Cor 4:10). In dying completely to the individual self, over time each spouse discovers their true identity (Mt 10:39) and become fully alive. The husband must empty himself of all his desires, and then sacrifice his life out of love for his wife (Eph 5:25). On equal ground, the wife's role is to humbly submit to her husband, ordering her life around his plans (Col 3:18). In the Sacrament of marriage, the key to true happiness and longevity depends on the couple's commitment to mutual consent, trust, respect, fidelity, and the dying of the self and willingness to sacrifice their own life for the life of their spouse. When the couple truly offers their lives unto themselves as one in marriage, the floodgates of His loving grace open wide.
Husband beware: It is your job for all eternity to figure out the enigma of your better half (pray for strength and patience!); the wife's job, of course, is to keep her man guessing. In short, the responsibility to know and understand what makes your spouse tick is what keeps married life new, alive, and exciting. The Bible provides further edification for husbands: "Live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Pt 3:7).
Finally, husbands must, therefore, humbly become a student of their loving wife to know, honor, adore, love, cherish, and understand her every-evolving and mysterious ways. She is a "perfect gift" bestowed on man from our heavenly Father (Jas 1:17). Marriage can only thrive in a climate of love and respect. Trust in God to fulfill His plan for your lives as one as you communicate and pray for guidance. Remember: "Couples who pray together stay together" (—unknown).
Vatican City, February 2, 2013 (VIS) – At 5:30pm this afternoon in the Vatican Basilica, Benedict XVI presided at Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Day of Consecrated Life for members of institutes for consecrated life and societies of apostolic life. Following are ample excerpts of the Holy Father's homily.
" 'A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel,' thus Simeon defines the Messiah of the Lord at the end of his song of blessing. The theme of light, … is strongly present in this liturgy. In fact, the liturgy opens with a … procession in which the general superiors of the institutes for consecrated life represented here carried lit candles. This sign, specific to the liturgical tradition of this Feast, is very expressive. It shows the beauty and the value of consecrated life as the reflection of Christ's light and recalls Mary's entrance into the Temple: the Virgin Mary, consecrated woman par excellence, carried Light itself in her arms, the incarnate Word who had come to dispel the darkness of the world with God's love.
"You are all represented in that symbolic pilgrimage, which in the Year of Faith expresses even more strongly your own assembly in the Church, to be confirmed in the faith and to renew the offering of yourselves to God. … In the light of Christ, with the many charisms of contemplative and apostolic life, you cooperated in the Church's life and mission in the world. In this spirit of gratitude and communion, I would like to offer you three invitations so that you might fully enter through that 'door of faith' that is always open to us.
"Firstly, I invite you to nourish a faith that is capable of illuminating your vocation. In this regard I urge you to remember, in an interior pilgrimage, of the 'first love' with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not out of nostalgia, but to nourish its flame. This is why it is necessary to be with Him, in the silence of adoration, and thus to reawaken the desire and the joy of sharing one's life and choices, of the obedience of the faith, the blessedness of the poor, and the fundamental nature of love.
Secondly, I invite you to a faith that knows how to recognize the wisdom of weakness. In today's joys and afflictions, when the harshness and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that Christ's 'kenosis' is already a paschal victory. In societies of efficiency and success, your life, marked by its 'minority' and by the weakness of the small, by its empathy with those who have no voice, becomes an evangelic sign of contradiction.
"Finally, I invite you to renew the faith that makes you pilgrims toward the future. By its nature consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit, in search of a Face that sometimes shows itself and sometimes hides itself: 'Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram'. May this be your heart's constant desire, the fundamental criterion that guides your path, both in its small daily steps as well as in its more important decisions. Do not fall in with the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or the non-sense of consecrated life in the Church in our days. Rather, 'put on the Lord Jesus Christ', 'put on the armor of light' … and remain wakeful and vigilant.
"The joy of consecrated life necessarily goes through participation in Christ's cross. That is how it was for Mary, Most Holy. Hers is the suffering of a heart that is wholly one with the Heart of the Son of God, pierced by love. God's light springs forth from that wound, and from the suffering, sacrifice, and gift of self that consecrated persons live out of love for God and others shines forth that same light, which evangelizes the nations. On this Feast, I wish particularly for you consecrated persons, that your lives might always have the flavor of evangelic 'parrhesia', so that, in you, the Good News might be lived, witnessed to, announced, and shine forth as the Word of truth."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013.H.R. 940 was introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) on March 4; the bill has 66 co-sponsors.
"Protection for conscience rights in health care is of especially great importance to the Catholic Church, which daily contributes to the welfare of American society through a network of schools, social services, hospitals, and assisted living facilities," Cardinal O'Malley wrote in a March 8 letter to Congress. "These institutions, which have been part of the Church's ministry since the earliest days of the Republic, arose from religious conviction. They provide a substantial savings to communities and states throughout the nation, and we believe they contribute to the common good.
"The legal protections which allow us to fulfill our obligation to serve others, without compromising our religious or moral convictions, are essential to the continued vitality of these ministries," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley wrote that "while those protections have long enjoyed bipartisan consensus, they are under greatly increased pressure today." He cited the mandate for coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs and devices under the Affordable Care Act's "preventive services" provision and referred representatives to a letter written by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, who set forth the need for such legislation in greater detail.
"A failure to provide clear and enforceable protection for a right of conscience could undermine Americans' access to quality health care. Providers of health care, as well as those who offer or purchase insurance, should not face an unacceptable choice between preserving their religious and moral integrity or participating in our health care system," the cardinal wrote.
He closed by urging support for the bill and the incorporation of its policies into upcoming "must-pass" legislation.
The full text of Cardinal O'Malley's letter may be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued this statement moments after learning of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013:
The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar, and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.
Though 78 when he was elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened – Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world's youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, and Spain.
He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics.
Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.
He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.
He spoke for the world's poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals. He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God's creation in nature.
Those who met him, heard him speak, and read his clear, profound writings found themselves moved and changed. In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today's world.
(Source: USCCB press release)
A Family Prayer For The Year Of Faith
O God our Father, in Jesus You call all Christian families and homes to be signs of living faith. By the light of the Holy Spirit, lead us to be thankful for the gift of faith, and by that gift may we grow in our relationship with Jesus, Your Son, and be confident witnesses to Christian hope and joy to all we meet. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com